Archives for category: Animals

I do occasionally look after poultry although not all of them are as free to roam as Mr Humble, the handsome blond cockerel and his mother, helpfully called Mother. Every night, after a day spent scratching about the property far and wide, they would put themselves to bed in the barn, roosting on a partition between the stables and every morning they would be waiting for me to give them their breakfast at the conservatory door. This happened so often during the course of my sit that I was quite worried the day they didn’t show up for their slice of toast! I soon found them in the disused greenhouse making the most of the morning sunshine to dig up the grubs!

Christmas Day will soon be upon us and this year I am really looking forward to it because we’ll be letting the professionals to do all the hard work!

The 25th of December became known as Turkey-Turn-Around Day to our family when what should have been Christmas lunch became Christmas dinner. The fowl, being far too big for our oven which looks deceptively capacious until you try to put anything bigger than a medium-sized chicken in it, took an age to roast. So our festive offering had to be removed every thirty minutes and its tin rotated allowing it to cook evenly! My Sister, who was doing the honors that year, asked for my help with the oven door, which sticks, so she could man-handle the bird. Turning the turkey turned into doing `the turkey-turn-around’ dance because we’d booth had one too many dark and stormys and it seemed like a good idea at the time. The dance involved us doing a half crouching turn whilst flapping our bent arms like wings, not a pretty sight but hugely amusing to us.

Last year we plumped for a goose after watching Jamie Oliver cook one to perfection on television, in a much bigger oven I soon realized! Unfortunately, by the time we’d organised ourselves the only two geese left in the supermarket were gigantic and enormous which resulted in the smaller of the birds being brought home to be contorted into a yogic sort of pose before it would fit in our tiny oven.

As we sat late into the evening becoming more inebriated with our tummies growling like angry bears and muttering darkly about Jamie Oliver’s large appliances, Mother mentioned buying a turkey crown for next year and was immediately pelted with cheesy footballs from all directions. So it came to pass that none of us could face another Yule of underdone meat and overdone sprouts and agreed that we would book a table for next year at the first available restaurant that would have us! Of course Christmas will always be known to us as Turkey-Turn-Around Day!

Pippa, the eleven month, Golden Retriever bitch that I’ve been looking after loves attention. So much so that at any given opportunity she will drop to the ground, usually on my feet so I can’t move away and flop over onto her back, exposing her soft underbelly for a good tickling.

After spending three weeks with George and Pippa, Lucy the elderly tiger-taby cat and Jasper the African Grey parrot I felt we had bonded. I’d received a love bite from Jasper, been drooled on by the dogs and Lucy and I had played football with some scrunched up silver foil on the kitchen lino.

It was a wrench to leave them but I can now eat my porrige in the mornings without having to share it five ways!

I can’t quite get my head around the fact that we are already into March and I have hardly spent any time at home! Most of February saw me sitting on a variety of animals in Somerset, which proved very enjoyable and hugely entertaining, although knowing that my Ageing P is experiencing increasing problems with her eyesight was, and still is, a cause for concern.

Selworthy Green looked glorious in the spring sunshine the day I arrived. Snowdrops cascaded down the banks and the crocus stood in patches of deep purple and bright yellow splendour under the trees. I was a little apprehensive at taking on my usual sit for Rectory Cottage as it was the first time that I would be looking after my client’s springer/pointer cross. I’d been warned to keep a close eye on the sprointer in case she scented a deer, she had recently travelled miles trying to chase one down! Enquiring if I should keep her on the lead I was informed that it wouldn’t be necessary.

“Don’t let her get too far ahead of you,” I was told by the sprointer’s owner. “When you call her back make sure she sits in front of you then reward her with some sausage, she’s very food orientated!” The sprointer looked at me as if in agreement with that last statement!

The following morning I left the cottage early, my coat pockets bulging with chunks of bribery sausage and other tasty morsels, the sprointer roved in front of me, her nose already to the ground. The day felt full of promise as we crossed the green and headed up into the woods, the tall tree tops touched a vivid blue sky and the air smelt of damp earth and emerging life. Every now and again when I felt there was too much distance between us I would whistle to the sprointer, her recall was excellent, immediate. I decided that I might have over done things on the sausage bribery front however, when my canine charge started to return to me without an invitation.

Having left the woods behind us, we followed one of many rutted tracks made by the cattle and Exmoor ponies that crisscrossed most of the Holnicote Estate up onto the hills. The gorse was just beginning to show yellow, soon its golden flowers would be joined by the purple heather, once the bushes had been warmed by the sun would give off a sweet smell of coconut that has always reminded me of summer.

Watching the sprointer at work was a pleasure. Her long, smooth, black snout was constantly to the ground as she zig-zagged across the moorland, throwing herself into the gorse and heather bushes after unseen quarry, oblivious to the brambles’ thorns. In her previous life she had been used to fending for herself and had become an adept killer of rabbits and squirrels, something I was to witness later! Despite being so focused on the hunt my canine companion was more than happy to stop when I did. As I sat on a hillside taking in the stunning Exmoor National Park she would lean into my body and allow me to ruffle her ears!

Back down in the woods on the homeward stretch of our enjoyable ramble the sprointer suddenly dived into some undergrowth. There was a shrill squeak and my charge emerged from the dense foliage with a sizeable rabbit in her jaws which she promptly dropped at my feet! Her find was still alive and on closer inspection had myxomatosis. The kindest thing to do, I decided, was to put the rabbit out of its misery but I knew I wouldn’t be able to dispatch it myself, so I let the sprointer finish what she’d started, removing the limp creature from the happy hound immediately afterwards. I consoled myself with the thought that at least the rabbits end was swifter than it would have been from myxomatosis. There was no way I could chastise the dog for doing what so obviously came naturally to her, unlike me she wasn’t squeamish. She gratefully accepted the sausage I proffered in place of her kill and bounded off down the path nose to the ground.

Lost the Plot?!.

There seem to be few things better than digging in Hercules’ doggy life, eating and carrying large stones come close. So it was wonderful to see Herc’s enthusiasm for his favourite pastimes had returned after a recent nasty illness.

I hadn’t expected to sit for The Plaidy Lady again until after Christmas and I was delighted when she rang to ask me if I would look after her two black labradors, Hercules and Hellene for ten days.

Herc is looking rather thin as his lockjaw like symptoms left him unable to open his mouth to eat or pick up his beloved soft toy, duckie. His sister, Helle, isn’t faring any better, having a rather pronounced limp due to arthritis in her wrist. So it’s light duties when it comes to exercising the hairy pair these days, although I don’t think either of them realise that they should be taking things steady, not if the frantic digging on the beach is anything to go by.

Herc’s work started as a hole which quickly became a trench that is progressing towards the sea. He digs all the while with the biggest rock he can just about manage in his mouth. The rock is never buried, instead Herc carries it back up to the house where he drops it, usually inches from my toes, on the decking. The cairn is coming along nicely!

Should I praise Herc on his efforts, Helle, not wanting to be outdone, commences burrowing too, although she does like leaving her stone, ball or whatever flotsam or jetsam she’s found washed up on the shore in it, several tennis balls have been lost this way.

The other afternoon, between walks, we were all squashed up together on the sofa in the snug. The dogs were trumping so horribly that I paused the film I was watching and took them down to the beach for an empty (I had sufficient pooh bags in my pocket) Unfortunately, both of my smelly canine charges now regard the seashore as their playground, digging taking precedence over toiletting!

I was once asked by a generous client, who was providing me with food for the duration of my sit, if there was anything I didn’t eat. To which I replied, `Tripe!’ She looked a little offended until I explained I wasn’t being offensive just expressing a dislike for that particular awful offal!

I am very fortunate to have many clients who leave provisions for me and who are happy for me to riffle through their store cupboards. Although I did sit for a couple who I’m sure used to count the tea-bags after my stays in case I’d been entertaining visitors!